Best Defense

Ike and the interstate system: Bringing together the general and the president

It was perfectly natural for Eisenhower, when he became president, to focus part of his energies on constructing an interstate highway system. I’d like to see another president follow his example.

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The more I read of history, the more I notice that powerful nations got the way they are and stayed that way by building good roads. The Romans are the most notable example, of course. But other nations learned this secret long before them. I noticed last summer, for example, that the Spartans constructed roads in their area with an almost railroad-like precision, carving grooves in stone for the wheels of their carts. Much later, the French army became powerful at about the time that it learned to use the modernizing European roadnet to field a new type of unit, the division.

All this makes me think that it was perfectly natural for Eisenhower, when he became president, to focus part of his energies on constructing an interstate highway system. I’d like to see another president follow his example by revitalizing our national infrastructure. It shouldn’t take two hours for a passenger train to get from New Haven, Connecticut, to Manhattan.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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